A Guide to Stoicism
My post on Tim Ferriss’ site is up and its called “Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs.”
It took a long time to put together but I think it’s the first real introduction to the most overlooked part of Western philosophy. The rest of the blogs that write about self-improvement and productivity have really dropped the ball when it comes to honest, practical advice, in favor of glib Eastern sayings. There is one thing that couldn’t fit in there but I think is still worth talking about, it’s the nature of what Stoic writing is.
Marcus Aurelius wrote Meditations for his own personal study, never intending it for publication; Seneca‘s letters were a private exchange with a friend; Epictetus didn’t write a single thing down (handwritten notes from a student made their way to a young Marcus Aurelius). This puts their writing in a spirit that’s almost unheard of in the “self-help” category. When you’re writing for an audience, there is such a massive incentive to puff yourself up or present the best side of yourself that it becomes inherently fake.
The Stoics wrote personal exhortations so they lack the puffing and rationalization that comes from presenting yourself to an audience. When was the last time you read a self-help book where the author admitted that all their advice was difficult, that it was ok to fail at it because they did all the time too? Publication, for some reason, makes everyone feel like they have to pretend they’re perfect and that it’s not a struggle. Stoic writing is refreshingly clear of all that and, to me, that’s why it is important.
I would really recommend Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. It’s intense but it allows you to use philosophy as it was intended, as a way of life, rather than some academic pursuit.